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Showing posts from May, 2013

God Provides for Us -- Proper 5 (David Ackerman)

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We continue sharing David Ackerman's liturgical materials that take us beyond the lectionary. As anyone who uses the lectionary knows, it doesn't cover all the texts. With his new book, Beyond the Lectionary: A Year of Alternatives to the Revised Common Lectionary, and with these liturgical materials, David Ackerman, a United Church of Christ pastor, offers us an alternative (perhaps used as year 4).
This set of liturgical materials is designed for use on June 9th.

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Proper 5
June 9, 2013 “God Provides for Us” Call to Worship:  Psalm 12 (vv 1-2, 5-7) NRSV One:  Help, O Lord, for there is no longer anyone who is godly; the faithful have disappeared from humankind.  They utter lies to each other; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. Many:  “Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now rise up,” says the Lord; “I will place them in the safety for which they long.” One:  The promises of the Lord are prom…

Who Sets the Boundaries? A Lectionary Reflection -- Pentecost 2C

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1 Kings 18:20-21, 30-39
Galatians 1:1-12
Luke 7:1-10
Who Sets the Boundaries?
Who is on the inside and who is on the outside?  And who sets the boundaries?  Who decides who gets to be a member and who doesn’t?  What’s the criteria?  It is important to know one’s identity, where one belongs.  But, on the other hand, if God is the one who sets boundaries, can God move them here and there? 
We ask – what is faith?  We ask – what is the gospel?  Paul writes to the Galatians and tells them not to believe anything that contradicts what they were first taught by Paul.  Elijah tells the Israelites – you have to choose – the Lord or Baal.  And yet, Jesus finds faith in an unexpected place – in the life of a Roman soldier.   Boundaries are important, but it seems as if God has permission to move them!
            We’ve come through the long season of Easter.  We’ve reflected on the meaning of the Cross and the Resurrection.  We’ve heard the promise of Pentecost and a word about the Triune nature of …

The Gift of Beauty and the DIA

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It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  If you go to an art museum you will find many varieties of artwork.  Some pieces of art almost seem to be photographs as they seem to accurately portray a scene.  Others are quite abstract.  We all have our preferences.  I’m not that into abstract art.  But just because I’m not as attracted to Picasso as is someone else, doesn’t mean that one or the other of us doesn’t appreciate good art.  One could say something similar about music.  One prefers Miles Davis, another Bach, and another Jayzee.  Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but life needs beauty to flourish.                 In the first creation story (Genesis 1), God comments after each act of creation, pronouncing what God sees as good.  God looks at creation and appreciates its beauty, its perfection, its grace.  There is much in life that isn’t beautiful, but without something of beauty to catch our hearts we’re liable to fall into despair. 
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Memorial Day Thoughts

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Many of us here in the United States have a "day off" today so that we might remember those who have died, especially in service to country.  The holiday began as Decoration Day and was a day of remembrance of those persons who died in the Civil War.  It was a day decorate the graves of the fallen. Over time as more wars were added to the American experience, the purpose of the day expanded to include those who had fallen in other wars.

Memorial Day continues to lift up those who have died, but it has taken on a broader cultural dynamic.  It is the unofficial beginning of summer.  School is out or will be out soon.  Vacations are being embarked upon.  We barbecue/grill burgers and chicken and maybe buy furniture (at least that's what the advertisements hope we'll do).  You might even do some yard work that needs attending to!  Oh, and Cheryl and I might go to the new Star Trek movie.  It is, therefore, a day to have a bit of fun (so why am I blogging? -- It's a…

The Voice of Wisdom -- A Sermon for Trinity Sunday

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Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31


I haven’t done a lot of square dancing in my life, but I’ve done enough to know the basics.  One thing I know for sure is that the Caller plays an important role in the success of the dance.  The Caller guides the dancers in their movement and their steps, and if you don’t follow the Caller’s voice, you’re liable to cause a bit of chaos.  But, if you heed the Caller’s voice, you’ll be successful in your dance.
It’s Trinity Sunday and we hear the voice of Wisdom calling out to us, inviting us to join with God in a holy dance of joy!  If you go out into the narthex and look at our Core Values statement, you’ll find one that calls for us to be spiritually joyful. That is, our life with God should be filled with joy.  
As that great hymn of the faith that opens our hymnal declares:

Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of Glory, Lord of love,
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive our fear and doubt away; 
Gi…

Thoughts on the Trinity -- for Trinity Sunday

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The Christian understanding of God has traditionally been defined in Trinitarian terms.  The Trinity is the way in which we name God.  We maybe monotheistic, but Judaism and Islam have a much more consistent and narrow understanding of monotheism.  In fact, Islam could be seen as a Unitarian offshoot of Christianity.  Consider the assertion of Robert Wright that more marginalized Christian sects, such as the Ebonite’s, could have been a source of Islam’s birth.  That is, Muhammad, in developing a form of monotheism for Arabia, may have looked to non-Trinitarian forms of Christianity, as well as Judaism for insights, and then adapted them to his own needs.  Thus, for Muhammad, Jesus is a prophet, Messiah, and even one born of a virgin, but not “son of God” – at least not in the way traditional Christians have understood that idea.[1]
             As the late Disciples historian Ronald Osborn notes, Disciples have been ambivalent about the doctrine of the Trinity from the beginning.  He…

Concerning Homosexuality -- How Does the Church Discern a Proper Response?

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If you read this blog with any regularity you know that I support the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church, including gay marriage.  I also have a high view of biblical authority, believing that God does speak through these words.  For many these two affirmations seem contradictory.  After all, the Bible seems to offer a straightforward no to same-gender sexual relationships.  From Leviticus's declaration that such unions are an abomination to Paul's words about women and men exchanging natural intercourse (heterosexual) for unnatural (seemingly homosexual).  But is there more to this story?
I have come to believe that despite this no to same gender relationships, the story is much more complex.  Having recently preached on the Cornelius moment (Acts 11), I do believe that there is another way.  I believe that God continues to speak, and in doing so, may modify our understandings of what is appropriate. I believe that personal experience can be revelatory, but what…

God Knows the Truth -- Beyond the Lectionary (David Ackerman)

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Many of us who preach regularly turn to the lectionary, which offers a three year cycle of biblical texts. It's a helpful way to move through the biblical story, but the compilers of the lectionary leave out portions of that story. David Ackerman, a United Church of Christ pastor, has created a secondary lectionary -- what he calls "Beyond the Lectionary." David approached me about sharing the message with my readers, and so with this posting I begin sharing this word. My plan is to post these beyond the lectionary materials on the Thursday prior. I would also invite you to get a copy of David's forthcoming book, which I plan to review in the near future. Here is a description of the book:
Beyond the Lectionary gives preachers a new year of Biblical texts that are not found on Sundays (or other mainline Protestant holy days) in the three-year cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary. It provides readings from the Hebrew Bible, Psalms, Epistles/New Testament and Gosp…

Dancing with God on Trinity Sunday -- A Lectionary Reflection

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Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15
Dancing with God on Trinity Sunday
Why bother with the Trinity?  It’s a distraction from interfaith conversations with Jewish and Muslim friends, who find it difficult to reconcile the Christian claim to be monotheists with our affirmation of this idea of threeness in God’s nature.  Besides, Christians have been struggling with this doctrinal statement since at least the third century if not before.   We’ve come up with all manner of definitions that veer from tritheism (three gods) to Unitarianism.  In the fourth century, feeling pressure from the Roman government, leaders of the church decided on a formula (Nicene Creed) that drew from Greek philosophical categories that we no longer make use of.  We nod in agreement even if we don’t accept the philosophical foundations as useful.  So why not just abandon this idea of the Trinity and affirm a more radical monotheism? 
            As a pastor in a denomination that doesn’t put the Trinity …